Trying to decide about upgrading what I have or buying new (long)

Discussion in 'Cycling Equipment' started by WilliamK1974, Jun 23, 2008.

  1. WilliamK1974

    WilliamK1974 New Member

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    I'll try to avoid rambling here.

    Lately, I've been using a Haro Flightline Sport MTB as a commuter bike. I replaced the knobbies with thinner, slicker road-oriented tires. The terrain around here is quite hilly, so the low gears come in handy. But I feel like there has to be a faster bike for this purpose. Something makes me feel like I've got the MTB a little out of its element.

    I went to the LBS this weekend and looked at a couple of drop bar-equipped road bikes. One was from the Fuji Newest series, and the other from the Giant OCR series. Both good bikes with the features I wouldn't mind having. Both can take a rear rack. The LBS sells both for less than MSRP. Not unreasonable, but I'm a semi-broke grad student, so $800 for a bike is alot right now even with all the advantages that bike might have.

    I have a Schwinn World bike that I've owned for 19 years. It's in decent shape, but its 12-spd gears are pretty high and aren't good for the hills around here. It would otherwise make a good commuter cause it's not flashy and seems durable with lugged steel. It's not a "serious" road bike and is heavy compared with modern bikes. But its old-fashioned nature could work in its favor.

    Is there a way that I could upgrade my old Schwinn to make it more useful, like adding a wider range of gears or something like that? I've upgraded its brakes, but that was easy. I don't know much, if anything, about changing out freewheels or cassettes or anything like that. I assume what I want to do is possible, but wonder if it's practical.

    Can I upgrade/enhance my old equipment, or am I stuck buying something new?

    Any advice would be appreciated.

    Thank you,
    -Bill
     
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  2. alfeng

    alfeng Well-Known Member

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    Well, you can EASILY change the gearing on your old Schwinn by simply changing the FREEWHEEL in the back and/or the rear derailleur (if necessary) ... the cost should be under $30 for the freewheel (SunRace makes 13-28 7-speed freewheels which can be a direct swap onto your rear wheel which presumably has 126mm wide rear spacing).

    The SunRace "brand" is the reincarnated SunTour.

    There are OTHER sizes & brands ... .

    Shimano has a MEGA-range Freewheel which has a 34t (?) largest cog. There are OTHER brands of Freewheels with WIDE ranges -- the cost varies.

    Of course, your old Freewheel needs to be removed & requires a brand specific Freewheel "tool" to engage the Freewheel. Depending on the brand & your existing "home" tools, it might be more expedient to EITHER have your bike shop remove the old Freewheel OR to grind (!) the old Freewheel off (not easy, but sometimes the only way!). Some Freewheels are probably NOT worth re-using/saving.

    The bike shop MAY charge you to remove the Freewheel even if you buy the new one from them ... but, maybe they'll remove the old one for free.

    Theoretically, many/most of the parts from your Haro can be exchanged for parts on the Schwinn, and vice-versa ...

    You can put a MTB crankset on your Schwinn ...

    The CRANKSET (and/or BB, as needed) on your Schwinn & Haro can theoretically be swapped, one for the other. To use the crankset from your Schwinn on your Haro may require a longer BB spindle, so it may not be a seamless swap) ... thus giving your Schwinn lower gearing and/or your Haro higher gearing.

    Of course, you could simply buy a new crank for the Schwinn (or, Haro).

    The $40 (mail order price, OR walk-in sale price if you have a Performance Bike shop near you) "starter" toolkits which come in a plastic case have a lot of the bike-specific tools you will need ... some of the tools are good quality, some are marginal quality ... OR, you can buy the tools separately (but, for more).

    Your actual options are almost endless, so you can let your budget be your guide.

    BTW, I have a mid-80s Peugeot whose ONLY original components are the two, rear dropout adjusting bolts. I also retrofitted a hardtail frame I have with a "road" front fork + a set of 700c wheels + "road" (52/39) crankset.
     
  3. WilliamK1974

    WilliamK1974 New Member

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    Ok, I went and counted the largest and smallest cogs on the Shimano SIS freewheel currently on the Schwinn. The smallest was 14 and the biggest was 28. So that makes it a 13-28? Have not counted the front chainrings.

    There's a 1990 Schwinn catalog online, but it doesn't seem to have the spec breakdown available for the World.

    What kind of difference would a 13-28 freewheel make besides one extra gear over what I have now?
     
  4. WilliamK1974

    WilliamK1974 New Member

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    Just noticed a mistake in my post. I was trying to say I have a 14-28 freewheel.
     
  5. alfeng

    alfeng Well-Known Member

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    Changing to a 7-speed Freewheel on the Schwinn won't have any particular advantage other than to give you a higher gear with the 13t cog ... which you don't need right now! You would want something like one of the 14-34 Freewheels.

    BTW. Your Schwinn probably has a 52/42 chainring combination ... your MTB's crank is probably a 42/32/22 ...

    If you are using the smaller 42t chainring + a 34t rear cog, you'll probably be able to get over most hills without too much trouble.

    So, if you swapped one crank for the other, you would have lower gearing on the Schwinn & higher gearing on the Haro.

    A PARK TOOL crank puller will cost you about $15 at your bike shop. The advantage of the PARK crank puller is that it can handle "regular" square taper spindles which have a 15mm bolt + the odd-ball spindles which have a nut threaded onto a threaded end of the spindle. If the Schwinn's crank is held on with a regular 15mm bolt, then you can use almost any other crank puller ...
    • swap cranks (the BBs may need to be swapped which means another set of tools!)
    • adjust front derailleur height, stops, & cable tension
    • test ride
    The disadvantage of simply swapping the cranks is that you would lose the large chainring ... but, if you're using only the inner chainring (which I am only presuming is a 42t) on the Schwinn, then it's not an issue and you'll have a lower gear.

    Definitely, try the Haro with the crankset that is currently on the Schwinn OR simply buy another ROAD crank to use on the Haro. You can get some pretty good USED "road" cranks from eBay + BB for less than $60 ... so, it's just a matter of the tools + your time ...

    You really need to decide how much money you have to budget to make your commute more efficient ... BUT, regardless, you don't need to buy a new bike AND whatever you decide to do can be done for less than $100 if that is the budget you decide upon.
     
  6. WilliamK1974

    WilliamK1974 New Member

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    It does appear that the Schwinn has a 52-42 up front. It's marked 52T on one of the rings.

    So, I would get a difference just from putting an MTB crankset on the Schwinn, But I could go further and change crank and freewheel.

    This has been very helpful information.

    I guess what worries me a bit is swapping derailleurs and shifters.

    I'll leave the MTB as/is and keep it full-time MTB.
     
  7. alfeng

    alfeng Well-Known Member

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    Yes, it can be that easy IF you can live without the 52t chainring.

    Most cranks have replaceable chainrings, but some do not ...

    So, if the Schwinn's crank has a 110BCD (you'd have to measure OR post a picture), then you might be able to replace the 42t with a 34t chainring.

    Sometimes, it's less expensive to buy a used-or-inexpensive crankset rather than a new chainring ... it's just one of the-ways-of-the-world.

    Changing the derailleurs and/or shifters is mostly a matter of money.
     
  8. WilliamK1974

    WilliamK1974 New Member

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    The frustrating thing I've found so far is that few of the shops I've seen sell a triple chainring road crank, but have a large selection of ATB cranks. The road bikes I looked at over the weekend all had triple chainrings. Not sure what all of them were, but I know one was a 52/42/30. Not sure how that stacks up to some of the MTB cranks I've seen.
     
  9. alfeng

    alfeng Well-Known Member

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    To state the obvious, first, ATB cranks & MTB cranks are generally the same 'thing' with a different appellation attached ... but, I suppose it could be suggested that all MTB cranks will have 104BCD, now, & some ATB cranks may have 5-arm 110BCD spiders.

    The majority of the MTB cranks you look at will have 175mm crankarms ...

    There is NO consistency with regard to ROAD cranks because this is an area of personal preference despite someone having come up with a rather arbitrary formulation. SOME proportionality to body size is beneficial, but I (personally) question the formula.

    ROAD cranks seem to have a Q-factor (specifically, "quack"-factor ... the distance between the crankarms where the pedals are attached) of about 150mm ... ROAD triples are about 160mm ... MTB cranks are about 170mm (because of the need for the crankarms to clear the wider chainstays) ...

    But, older MTB cranks can certainly be used with a shorter BB spindle on a road bike; and similarly, a ROAD crank can certainly be put on a MTB frame by using a longer BB spindle.

    104BCD MTB cranks are generally triples -- they often have a 42-to-46t largest cog, 32t middle cog with a 22t granny is common. Shimano finally came out with a 48t 104BCD (4-arm) chainring a few years ago; and, ZIPP appears to have come out with "true" ROAD chainrings sizes with a 104BCD for their new, ultra-expensive crankset.

    Contemporary ROAD cranks which are triples usually have a 130BCD ... some triples may have 110BCD ... and, a miniscule amount have a 135BCD.

    52/42/30 is a common combination for a ROAD triple ... I don't think that is necessarily the best combination for most people ... but, it will get you from here-to-there.

    A ROAD triple usually functions better with a triple front derailleur and/or (triple) rear derailleur which has a long cage ... and, for THAT reason, a so-called "compact" crank with 50/34 chainrings is currently a popular choice when people want lower gearing because you can often get away without buying new derailleurs.

    As I indicated, before, if you can live (or, have been living) without using the large chainring on your Schwinn, then you may want to look for a MTB crankset which can be transferred to your Haro at some point in the future (if you are ever so inclined).

    The least expensive (and, simplest/easiest) change would be to put a 14-32(-or-34) Freewheel on the Schwinn with a MTB rear derailleur ... and, depending on the BCD of the current crank, possibly a 39t chainring.

    Let your budget be your guide.
     
  10. WilliamK1974

    WilliamK1974 New Member

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    Sorry, but can you explain what BCD means? Just about the time I thought I was "getting it" I realize that I'm still very much greener than green with this stuff.

    I just don't want to buy stuff even if it's expensive and have it turn out to be some kind of mistake that leaves me worse off than before or without significant improvement. To me, this is almost as big of a decision as buying a new bike cause so much seems to hinge on just a few things.
     
  11. TheDarkLord

    TheDarkLord New Member

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    BCD = bolt circle diameter.
     
  12. alfeng

    alfeng Well-Known Member

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    Sorry for the abbreviation ... BCD == Bolt Circle Diameter as measured in millimeters ... obviously, with a 4-arm MTB crank, you could just measure across from one chainring bolt to the opposite bolt (center-to-center); but, with a 5-arm crank, you would measure from the center of the crank (presuming the chainring is still mounted) to one of the chainring bolts & multiply by '2' [there is SOME imprecision in this method, but it will give you a close estimate].

    NB. On some cranksets, the chainrings are riveted onto the crankset AND are not designed to be removed/changed ... on some, the chainrings are welded to one-another. Either type of crank is meant to last forever, but with a severe weight penalty; AND in those cases, changing the crankset would be a change worth making.

    If you take your bike into a shop, they can tell you if there is a 39t (or, smaller) chainring that will fit your current crankset ...

    I guess a 39t chainring will cost between $10 to $50 from a bike shop ... sort of depends on the brand & "quality" of the chainring. In this matter, I would actually opt for the STEEL chainring which may actually be in the shop's spare-parts bin because it will last "forever" ... I'm probably the ONLY person on-the-Globe who has a steel, 39t chainring on a Dura Ace crankset!

    Having a 52/39 chainring combination may actually be all you need with your current, 14-28 Freewheel to make your ride more comfortable (a 34t or 36t chainring would be "better" if one will fit because it will make your low gear that much lower) ... so, I that's how I recommend you start your upgrade adventure (why pay more if you don't have to?).
     
  13. WilliamK1974

    WilliamK1974 New Member

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    Ok, so in order to keep things simple, I should ditch the 42-tooth chainring and replace it with a 39, 36, or 34?

    My current crankset appears to be rivited.

    I wish I knew more about the bike as a whole. That's a funny thing to say about a bike I've had since new, but there's not much spec. information out there. Someone scanned several Schwinn catalogs, but the spec sheet included with the scans didn't have my bike on it.
     
  14. alfeng

    alfeng Well-Known Member

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    Yes, I would simply change the chainring OR (if necessary) the crank+BB, first ...

    You 'just' need to decide if you need-or-want a crankset with a 48t-to-53t largest ring OR if a crankset with a 42t-to-46t largest ring that is normally used on a MTB will work for you ... other than NOT being able to chase down a pair of riders on a tandem OR a club racer who may sprint past you, a 42t (or, 44t/46t) chainring is probably large enough for most riding situations.

    BTW. If the rings are riveted together, you can theoretically grind off the rivets & replace them with chainring bolts (about a dollar each, so that's another $5 OVER the cost of the chainring) ... that's presuming a standard BCD size where you would have a smaller replacement ring available to install.

    Post a picture of the crankset if you have a digital camera handy/available to use.
     
  15. dgregory57

    dgregory57 New Member

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    Alfeng is on target here for sure...

    It sounds like your need the lower gears could be met with a chainring change, and a picture is worth a thousand words.

    If your crank offers a 110 mm BCD, you can go as low as 34 teeth for a chainring.

    It's too bad you are'nt in NE PA, as I might loan you some tools and advice, and possibly even raid my parts bin for you, but it isn't reasonable to make those offers long distance.
     
  16. WilliamK1974

    WilliamK1974 New Member

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  17. alfeng

    alfeng Well-Known Member

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    It looks as though you should be able to mount a 34t chainring (MEASURE, FIRST!) if you are so inclined ...

    However, you're probably going to need to BORROW (or, buy) one of the PARK crank removal tools because I'm not sure if the one that comes in those kits can remove your crank from its BB spindle -- those plastic covers unscrew, counter-clockwise, BTW -- because I reckon it has a nut threaded onto the BB spindle.

    There is a GOOD CHANCE that if you are handy and inclined (I guess I can't say that often enough), you can drill-out OR grind-off the "rivet" head (it's probably just "extra" metal on post that was mushroomed-down onto the backside of the chainring to hold it against the crank) ... but (presuming the "rivet" head is simply aluminum), drill a smaller hole PILOT HOLE using the existing depression, first ... you will then want to drill a larger hole to accept a bolt through the CENTER of the remaining post (you will be seating the replacement chainring on the post) ...

    It was not uncommon to attach a granny on some cranks using a similar method except a spacer was subsequently needed to properly offset the chainring from those cranks AND your crank has posts cast into the arms.

    When bike shops drilled the crankarms for an extra chainring, they generally threaded the holes BECAUSE they had the 'tap' & bolts handy ... you can drill through to the front of the crank and use longer bolts + washers + nuts.

    If you AREN'T handy, then ...
     
  18. WilliamK1974

    WilliamK1974 New Member

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    I decided to take that bike on a sort of urban adventure today, doing a similar route to the one I take when going to school. Like my school commute, this one included a bus ride that gets me over the worst of the hills that seem so disconcerting. Since I'm a student, the bus ride is free.

    I wasn't carrying anything except my Krypto locks (one U and one cable) and a small journal. Now, like always, I avoided what I see as the worst hills. But my ride took me into some hilly areas, which the bike seemed to tackle without much trouble on my part. Now, I wasn't carrying my fully laden backpack on this trip and that could make a difference.

    Maybe I'm getting into better condition or the lack of a load was making a big difference. Also, I haven't tried the worst of the hills. But I was interested to see how little trouble I had with the lack of a very low gear today.
     
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